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“The Dead Dream of Being Undead”

Part I

 

Once, there were two brothers born nine months apart in the same room of the same hospital in the same manner—the protracted period of ill-timed contractions, the doctor in blue scrubs and white mask, the late-night crowning, the father’s kiss, the death of the mother. And with each child’s arrival and each mother’s passing, the father celebrated and mourned in the only way he’d ever learned to do either: asleep in the arms of a new woman. Christenings were funerals. Cradles were made altars.

Not until their tenth year on a day four and one-half months after the oldest’s birthday and four and one-half months before the youngest’s birthday did the father reveal to the boys they weren’t borne of the same woman and that the woman they’d known as their mother was in fact mother to neither. And it wasn’t until this day in their tenth year that either brother had considered the differences between them, had even recognized there were differences between them other than their nine months’ difference in age.

What Happened Here cover hi-resI knew all about the crash when I moved onto Boundary Street in 2003. Everyone in San Diego did. Twenty-five years earlier, the deadliest airline disaster in U.S. history occurred above our homes before we lived here. It’s still the deadliest in California. PSA Flight 182 and a Cessna collided mid-air over our North Park neighborhood.

The perspective from the ground was shown afterward on the cover of TIME Magazine and newspapers around the world:  The flaming Pacific Southwest Airlines jet carrying a hundred and thirty-seven passengers plunged towards what was now our backyards.

Lilianes-Balcony-206x300“But its language was not language at all,” Kelcey Parker writes. “Music, perhaps, chords of concrete, stone, glass; the melody: falling water.” How very apt. As I’ve been reading through Kelcey Parker’s Liliane’s Balcony I’ve had a confession on my mind: that I often read for language. I’m not a poet, and I’m not a novelist, but when I read in either genre what I’m looking for so often deals with language—the way words hit like a rock, or fall like water.

DSC07794So your couplet of novellas from Dzanc Books, Could You Be With Her Now, is about (1) the first-person point-of-view of a developmentally disabled boy who mistakenly kills a neighborhood girl on whom he has crush; and (2) a May-December romance between two women. Not gunning for The Notebook crowd with these, huh?

I’m just hoping my mother reads the back cover before she buys copies for her friends as Christmas presents. I feel like we’ve gone through this awkwardness before with my writing.

 

Seriously, why?

Why do I write? Why do I write commercially unsuccessful fiction? I don’t think you choose what you get to write. For better or for worse, it chooses you.

The apocalypse comes in many forms. Oh sure, there is acid rain and there is drought, the crops dry up and the world moves on, but what happens when you’re alone with your wife or husband? Nature takes over, as it always does, and always will. And what becomes of the children? In Matt Bell’s haunting portrayal of twenty-six moments in the afterbirth of a world gone wrong, Cataclysm Baby (Mudluscious Press), we get to see how those days and nights roll on, when the waters are poisoned and furtive slick flesh seeks out a moment of passionate respite in many a dark and restless night.

Karen Lillis, known to the online world and beyond as the Small Press Librarian out of Pittsburgh, has also written three linguistically innovative, emotionally intense books, full of identity and naming and power (both sexual and personal): i, scorpion: foul belly-crawler of the desert (Words Like Kudzu, 2000), Magenta’s Adventures Underground (Words Like Kudzu/New York Nights, 2004), and The Second Elizabeth (Six Gallery Press, 2009).

“What is abuse? Someone with an upper hand taking advantage of it over a more vulnerable someone, usually exactly where there should have been intimacy, trust, love instead.” – Unnamed Narrator — Watch Doors as They Close

Spuyten Duyvil Novella Series recently unleashed an-anti love story called Watch Doors as They Close by Karen Lillis. Set in New York City, this novella is a common tale told in an uncommon fashion about an “ended before it began” relationship which was strained and then destroyed by the behavior patterns of a manic-depressive named Anselm.

My parents sentenced me to a life of literature when they named me after an ancient Greek monkey in a Lawrence Durrell play and then had the nerve to tack on the middle name Esmé. “Love and Squalor” is not only a nod to my namesake short story (R.I.P. Salinger) but a reminder of two ingredients that too often go missing from contemporary fiction. In this column, I’ll try to include the kinds of prose that give publishing houses migraines: story collections, translations, fiction set abroad, and works that defy genres. Basically, books that like to travel as much as I do.